An Unfinished Story’ Sheds Light on Filmmaker’s Turbulent Life

During my research for the book Guru Dutt An Unfinished Story, various accounts of Guru Dutt’s colleagues, close friends and his family members suggested that despite being at the peak of his success, Guru Dutt’s constant refrain used to be, “Mujhe lagta hai mai paagal ho jaoonga (I think I’ll go crazy!)”

As a biographer, I was curious to know what was the turbulence in Guru Dutt’s life and cinema? Why was Guru Dutt constantly restless and lonely? Why would he run away from Bombay looking for escape from his tortured state of mind. And finally, despite creating those masterpieces within a span of just 10 years, why did he end his life at the young age of 39?

A few people close to Guru Dutt blame his turbulent relationship with Geeta and the much talked about relationship with Waheeda Rehman? It is also said that he could never recover from the giant failure of his magnum opus Kaagaz Ke Phool. I learnt about the stories of his disturbed childhood and later his dependence on alcohol and sleeping pills. But was there a single reason that left him so heartbroken that he attempted suicide many times?

It was surprising that Geeta Dutt, a star in her own right was not a crucial character in all the previous accounts on Guru Dutt. Why was her version denied in almost all the write-ups about Guru Dutt?

Finally, through Guru Dutt’s sister Lalitha Lajmi’s the story of Guru and Geeta Dutt unravelled in the book. Lalitha Lajmi told me, “Guru Dutt and Geeta were deeply in love. But there was one major conflict in their relationship. Guru had promised that Geeta would continue singing even after their marriage. But now he wanted her to sing only in the films produced by Guru Dutt. He wanted Geeta to take care of the family, the big house they had built. With every successful film Guru achieved fame while Geeta felt that she has been denied her share of fame.”

About Waheeda Rehman, Lalitha said, ‘Waheeda and Guru Dutt had almost parted (in 1961). She used to invite us both sometimes for dinner and my brother knew she was friendly with me. l heard Guru Dutt went with a bouquet of flowers to her home and the doors were not opened to him. Perhaps it was after this incident l had visited him and for the first time he told me not to keep in touch with her any more.’

But she also added, “I don’t think he committed suicide over either of the two women. Professionally, Waheeda and Guru Dutt had moved away much before he passed away.”

Then what else was going on in Guru Dutt’s life that he had twice attempted to kill himself. He survived both attempts but was finally gone on 10th Oct 1964, he was gone at 39.

Lalitha Lajmi says, “For years I had dreams of Guru Dutt lying on his bed with his eyes half open and an unfinished book. I try to wake him up. I say, ‘get up! get up! your admirers are waiting below the balcony!’ I keep looking at his face. He looks like he is in a deep sleep. I keep waiting for him to get up but he is dead.”

I try to piece together the stories of Guru Dutt’s life and times in my book Guru Dutt An Unfinished Story. It is the story of Guru Dutt the genius filmmaker who remained an outsider in the film industry. It is the story of Guru Dutt, the person, a lonely, tortured soul and it is also the story of the Hindi Film industry of the 1950s and 60s.

(Yaaser Usman is a biographer, journalist and film critic)

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